Would you believe that more than 90 percent of journalists think that, to some extent, new media and communications tools and technologies are enhancing journalism? The statistic is staggering, and perhaps unbelievable to those who think the practice of true journalism has no place for citizen media, Twitter and social networking.
According to the 2nd Annual Middleberg/SNCR Survey of Media in the Wired World , the notion that today’s journalists shun the use of social and digital tools is a myth. Instead, journalists embrace social media, using it more and more to disseminate news, find story ideas and sources, monitor sentiments and discussions, conduct research on individuals and organizations, keep up on issues and topics of interest and participate in conversations.
In a webinar hosted by researchers and survey authors Jen McClure, founder and president of the Society of New Communications Research, and Don Middleberg, SNCR senior fellow and CEO of Middleberg Communications, the survey results painted an insightful picture into how journalists today do their jobs and tell their stories. The research also examined the dynamic between journalists and PR professionals, how a better understanding of the changing media landscape can work to benefit both disciplines and how it can help PR work more closely and effectively with journalists.
Insights shared during the webinar include:
- Journalists are using Twitter.
Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed say that Twitter is becoming an increasingly important tool for journalists. It could be argued that this is a reflection of the growing use of Twitter by the general population, including journalists worldwide. However, it was not long ago that journalists sourcing stories or connecting with leads on Twitter were few and far between. Journalists might also consider Twitter to be a powerful tool because of the large percentage of PR practitioners who are taking part, and are “fishing where the fish are” so to speak. There are some journalists who are so comfortable on Twitter that they will only accept pitches and other contact in the social network. Sites like the database MediaOnTwitter  give the non-believer a good idea of the diversity of journalists on Twitter. (Hint: For PR practitioners looking for journalists and media professionals on Twitter, try directories like WeFollow  and Twellow , or follow weekly conversations between journalists, bloggers and PR folks on Twitter’s journchat . )
- Traditional modes of communication still matter.
While the trend is indeed seeing journalists and PR professionals move into social networks, it’s important to remember that traditional — sure, you can even call them “old school” – practices are still in play. When asked how journalists like to be contacted by PR professionals, and how they like to communicate with sources, their top three answers remained outside of social networks: email, telephone and in-person meetings. What’s important to remember is that the strongest bonds between journalists and PR professionals are those based on solid, longstanding relationships, be they forged on the phone or via Facebook.
- Social media is enabling, not disabling.
Ninety percent of participating journalists said that social media is enhancing journalism, but what does that really mean? More specifically, it means that social media and social networking tools helped journalists work faster and more efficiently, according to the survey. It also suggests that they are able to more easily identify and connect with people, report with greater accuracy and collaborate with other journalists with heightened efficiency. Perhaps less striking than the statistic is the degree of positivity with which journalists view social media, seeing it as an arena for engagement, participation and collaboration.
There is little doubt in the mind of anyone in journalism or public relations that the rough terrain that is today’s media landscape isn’t always easy to navigate and questions continue to circulate: “Who do I communicate with?” “Where and when, and with what tools?” “Which ‘citizens’ can be trusted as legitimate sources and storytellers?” As social media continues to evolve, it will continue to beg these and other questions, all of which could greatly impact the news cycle — hopefully for the better.
Be sure to download “Top Tips for Using Social Media to Improve Your PR & Media Relations Activities ,” for useful tips, tools and insights.